Four Kenyan nationals residing in Houston were sentenced today for marriage fraud, visa fraud and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, . Herman Ogoti, 53, Alfonso Ongaga, 36, Andrew Mokoro, 36, and Rebmann Ongaga, 33, were convicted following a seven-day trial on Nov. 14, 2013. Ogoti and Alfonso Ongaga were also convicted of unlawful procurement of naturalization.
The case was investigated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Office of Fraud Detection and National Security; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations; and the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.
Alfonso Ongaga and Andrew Mokoro were sentenced to 16 months in federal prison, while Ogoti and Rebmann Ongaga each received six-month terms. The judge also revoked the naturalization of Ogoti and Alfonso Ongaga, thereby stripping them of their fraudulently acquired U.S. citizenship.
According to evidence presented during the trial, the defendants conspired to recruit and pay U.S citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages for the purpose of receiving lawful permanent resident status or citizenship. Each of the defendants applied for student visas to enter the United States. All but Rebmann Ongaga’s was granted. After his student visa was denied, Rebmann Ongaga, working with his other co-conspirators, flew a recruited U.S. citizen to Kenya to conduct a sham wedding ceremony. Several months later, Rebmann Ongaga entered the United States with a visa as the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
After entering the country, the other defendants married recruited American citizens; each recruited woman was to be paid $5,000 for her participation in the sham marriages.
The scheme was uncovered on Nov. 10, 2009, after two recruited women were detained at the U.S. Passport Office in Houston, suspected of committing passport fraud. They had told officials that they were traveling to Africa “to see the animals,” although they did not know where. Upon further questioning, they admitted they were both recruited to travel to Africa to marry the recruiters’ family members.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kebharu H. Smith and Suzanne Elmilady, from the Southern District of Texas, and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Ashlee McFarlane prosecuted this case.